US aircraft carrier in new exercises as North Korean tension simmers


The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group have returned to waters near the Korean Peninsula for exercises.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has launched another round of naval exercises with South Korean warships in response to North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches and warplanes flying near the South Korean border.

The Reagan aircraft carrier and its battlegroup returned to waters near the Korean Peninsula and began two days of exercises Friday to bolster South Korea’s and the United States’ defense capabilities, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement. declaration.

“We will continue to strengthen our operational capabilities and readiness to respond to any provocation by North Korea through joint exercises,” the joint leaders said in a statement on Friday.

The US naval assault group had already participated in missile defense exercises with warships from Japan and South Korea after North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over part of Japan on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Pyongyang launched two more short-range ballistic missiles into the waters off the east coast and later flew eight fighter jets and four bombers in formation just tens of kilometers from the inter-Korean border.

South Korea’s Air Force has mixed up 30 military aircraft in response to what is believed to be the largest deployment of North Korean warplanes near the South Korean border.

The United States Department of Defense said that in response to North Korea’s “provocative actions” this week, the Ronald Reagan strike group had been joined in the Sea of ​​Japan by Japanese and South Korean naval fighters to conduct ballistic missile defense exercises. feed.

“These exercises send a clear message of Allied unity,” Pentagon Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said on Thursday, adding that the US, Japan and South Korea would be “resolute against those who challenge regional stability” .

North Korea said earlier this week it had launched the ballistic missile over Japan in response to the US carrier group’s earlier training with South Korean naval vessels.

The North’s State Department said Thursday that the reshuffle of the US Navy “poses a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula and in the surrounding area”.

Pyongyang has long viewed joint US and South Korean military exercises as preparations for an invasion, and the latest exercises are likely to be met with a response from North Korea.

Heo Tae-keun, South Korea’s deputy minister of national defense policy, told politicians earlier this week that the north is ready to conduct its first nuclear test in five years and is preparing to test a new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile. and launched a submarine ballistic missile.

Ankit Panda, an expert on North Korea and Stanton’s current senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s nuclear policy program, said the North could conduct a test with little notice as the site is largely prepared.

If North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives the order, “a test could take place in 24-48 hours, I suspect,” Panda told Al Jazeera.

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